Former Joplin youth minister sentenced for Child Pornography

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A federal judge sentenced a former Joplin youth minister to six years in prison for exchanging pornographic images and videos with a child under the age of 18.

Nicholas Lane Stephens, 25, pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography in March. He was a youth minister at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin.

A Children’s Division investigator launched an investigation into Stephens after receiving a hotline call reporting that the youth minister was inappropriately involved with young girls at the church.

Court documents identified one 17-year-old victim as “Jane Doe.” The girl told investigators she sent nude images to Stephens over Snapchat in December 2019, and received nude images of him as well. This included pornographic FaceTime videos.

A dozen images and a video of child pornography of the girl were found on Stephen’s cellphone, along with multiple back and forth conversations between the two.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller prosecuted the case. The FBI, Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the Joplin, Mo., Police Department all assisted in the investigation.

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